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Rail minister fails to confirm Thameslink service will arrive in Maidstone this year as planned

The government's rail minister has failed to confirm that a much-anticipated service connecting Maidstone and the capital will definitely arrive this year - despite a pledge being made only six months ago.

Campaigners of all political colours vented their frustration when it was announced that the Thameslink route - which will see commuters from Maidstone East able to hope on quick, regular trains to London - had been pushed back by 12 months until December 2019.

The service would see trains also stopping at West Malling, Borough Green, Wrotham and Otford before travelling to popular City stations London Bridge, Blackfriars and St Pancras.

What the Thameslink services will mean for Maidstone

Fears were then exacerbated when it emerged the Department for Transport had asked bidders for the next south eastern rail franchise - the award of which has also been repeatedly delayed - what they would do were the Thameslink service “delayed indefinitely”, leaving many critics wondering whether it would ever materialise at all.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling insisted on a visit to the County Town last April the project was still very much on track, and then reaffirmed that commitment in a letter to Liberal Democrat councillor Rob Bird in October.

However, after being questioned by Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant, Mr Grayling's colleague, Andrew Jones, this week told the Commons he was unable to confirm that timetable would be met after all.

Mrs Grant told him: "It is desperately needed and it has been promised on a multitude of occasions."

The Thameslink service connecting London and Maidstone East was promised for December 2019
The Thameslink service connecting London and Maidstone East was promised for December 2019

Mr Jones said in reply: "[Mrs Grant] has been a very diligent campaigner on this issue. I know that it matters a lot to her and to her constituency and she has been a real vocal champion on this issue specifically.

"However, this is also an industry-led process and we are working with it to ​deliver the benefits as soon as possible.

"I cannot comment immediately on that matter because it is not part of this franchise but, of course, I will check the information and keep her posted on progress."

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